There is no shortage of interesting-looking bottoms on offer in stores. Whether it's a pair of pants or a skirt in a sheeny satin, a metallic brocade, taffeta or something in sequins like these pants from outnet.com
the best way to create a look for cocktails that won't appear overly fussed and trussed is to keep things simple on top. Of course, this is when the ubiquitous crisp white shirt comes in handy for a high and low mix but I like the casual drape of a dead classic cashmere V-neck or turtle neck worn with a statement bottom and some serious-looking faux gems. Try a set of cuffs one on each wrist like Ann Taylor's
Swarovski crystal-encrusted eye catchers and a pair of dazzlers at your lobes like this pair by Lee Angel
. Or fill in a low v-neck with a statement necklace. I will leave my Gaucho hat and sunglasses at home however.
One of the best strategies for cocktail dressing is to deploy the heavy artillery on the top balanced by something very simple on the bottom. Anything that I can pair with a pair of black pants is on my list. Tuxedo jackets are always a chic option but this season it's a cropped trophy piece of a jacket that looks really new. Something embellished and layered over a sheer blouse looks especially of-the-moment. The look doesn't have to cost a fortune. I've seen options in many price ranges including this embroidered black velvet number from H&M for $49.99. High and low ladies.
The reverse snobbery of fashion democracy is a wondrous thing and the collab of Lanvin and H&M just might be the most frantically anticipated example in the history of haute meets the high street. . ( Rumor has it that both Madonna and J.Lo have hit up the H & M press office for first dibs on samples.)
Lanvin is an exciting fashion get at this price because it is one of those indelibly, unerringly French collections that is utterly unaffordable for the average woman. And there is the appeal of Lanvin's createur, the charming and disarmingly down-to-earth Alber Elbaz who describes his collections as having something for the daughter and something for the mother. Merci, Alber.
Thanks to the wonders of the internet I got a sneak peak. This collection offers many takes on Lanvin signatures likes ruffled and draped short dresses, JUST-LOOK-AT-MY-SHOES statement pumps and elaborate neck treatments. All great but it's the sleek, wearable and ageless look of the faux fur pieces that are right up my street.
According to Women's Wear Daily this one will cost more than the previous H & M designer collaborations, ranging from $199 to $249. Still a steal in my book and I'll be lined up at 8 a.m. when stores open in the US and Canada to storm the gates for a piece (or two) of fashion history.
Wasp waists. Dirndle skirts. Ruffled, pushed up-bustlines. The late 50's/early 60's vibe of the hourglass silhouette inspired many fall collections. The mood was one part Joanie from Mad Men at Prada ( far right) mixed with one part Bardot in 'And God Created Woman' at Louis Vuitton ( far left). Marc Jacobs (center) used the below-the-knee a-line in combination with slouchy jackets and sweaters. Whenever hemlines drop below the knee, skirts and dresses with a strong a-line shape are the easiest to wear. Forget long, straight skirts. The look is strict and impossible to wear. The a-line is the fashion ally of curvy women everywhere. And the-throwback-to-the-50's use of wool flannel works for a sharply defined line because it's soft enough to drape and move with the body but firm enough to hold it's shape.
Key to the look is a smooth, pleat free waist. Pleats plus a-line equals wide on anyone but models. The Talbot's skirt below is seamed diagonally through the hips to further enhance the shape on the body. They pair their skirt with a ruffled blouse. Might be a very wearable nod to the Prada dress ( above far right).
Fall's crop of Double Agents knits -sweaters that also work as jackets or coats- in camel or gray with big time chunky texture will add a hit of 'new' to anything in your closet.
I am always keen on the mix of a textured, casual knit paired with a refined bottom like the evening skirt and sweater pairings at Michael Kors ( above left). The proportion of Philip Lim's oversized poncho cum sweater coat looks especially great with cropped pants. It's the fit through the shoulders that makes this look slouchy and not sloppy. One of season's most coveted items is Stella McCartney's luxe, ribbed camel cardigan (right) which is clearly warm enough to wear naked. Just add heels.
After a little retail reccy, here are a few deluxe-looking alternatives with an off-the-runway appeal for a fraction of the price:
Stella McCartney cardigan ( #1) is $1095 at net-a-porter
. The Leah cardy (#2) from Club Monaco is $149 and J Crew's
tipped chale cardy ( #4) is on sale for $126.00.
Miu Miu's double breasted sweater coat (#3) is $1195 at net-a-porter
and Ann Taylor's
alpaca and wool sweater coat (#5) is 198.00. I tried this style on and was so impressed I bought one.
Mark November 20th on your shopping calendar.
WWD reported that the next big 'collab' for Swedish retail giant H&M is with Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz. Not since Karl Lagerfeld designed his capsule collection for H&M have I been this excited about a masstige marriage. Alber is known for tweaking the French luxury tradition with a sensibility that is modern and playful and the H&M collection is reported to be all about Lanvin's cut and tailoring with a focus on form and details for both women and men. Images of the collection will be available on the H&M website on November 2. I may sleep on the sidewalk for this one.
I am a huge fan of Isabel Toledo. A highly respected part of the New york design scene for over 20 years, she has long been a fashion insider's favorite. Until now, you could only find her designs at stores like Barneys or boutiques like Ikram in Chicago -where Michelle Obama was first introduced to her beautiful clothes. The wool lace dress and coat ensemble Toledo designed for Mrs. Obama's Inaugural look propelled her onto the national stage and the kind of name recognition that wins masstige collabs at Target and Payless. Her shoe range for Payless
is as varied as a sexy satin-look D'orsay pump with sky high heels to a wooly boot that captures fall's love of fur trims. I went straight for the masculine/feminine appeal of the Ghillie.
Part ballet flat meets menswear, they'll will look just right with ankle cropped black pants. At $34.99 they are a cheap and chic transition flat- post sandals and pre-boots. I'll add a gel insole to compensate for the lack of give in the man made nylon. I'm betting they'll be a handy rain shoe on crap days as they have a sturdy and cool looking rubber sole.
For their fall/winter finale, Dolce and Gabbana sent dozens of girls down the catwalk (semi)dressed in smartly tailored jackets on top and simple black pumps on their feet. Their message was clear. The time seems right for a footwear correction to compliment two fall clothing camps -minimal and ladylike.
And when two high priestesses of cool like Stella McCartney
and Isabel Marant
sent pointy toe pumps down their runways a trendlet was hatched.
Requests for this "IT" mid-heel have created waiting lists at Isabel Marant stores in NY and Paris but they cost $620 (ouch) and the look can definitely be found for less.
This time last year I had a serious craving for just this kind of point toed pump to wear with pleated, cropped pants. I wanted pumps that were not so tres cher and expensive that I couldn't run around in them (I use this term loosly) on a typical day of shopping and appointments. I found the $69 style from Nine West (below).They are very comfortable. I can walk easily and the pointy toe offers the alchemy of nasty, sexy and classic all at once -minus any agony quotient. And at a tenth of the price of a pair of classic mid-heels from either Manolo Blahnik or Christian Louboutin I was pleased with my thrifty discovery.
I like the look of the Charles Jourdan pumps with a heel just over three inches and the black suede Elie Tahari
pumps capture the vibe of the Marant pumps.
BOTTOM CENTER: Nine West Novello
pumps $29 on sale ninewest.com
Target's marriage of high fashion designers and masstige retail continues this fall with three new collections worth investigating at your local Super Store. First up, on August 29th, is a collaboration with fine jewelry designer Temple St. Clair
whose distinctive gold work and motifs are inspired by Florentine art. While her pieces are collected by connoisseurs with an eye for modern classics, it's exciting that the rest of us can access her elegant and ageless sensibility.
ABOVE LEFT: Tucker for Target blouse, detail of Temple St Clair for Target necklace. A dress from Tucker by Gaby Besora the designer's main line. Mulberry for Target bag.
On September 10th, Tucker for Target will bow with separates designed by Gaby Basora. Tucker by Gaby Basora
dresses and blouses have been among my go-to favorites since I discovered her debut collection three years ago at Barney's.
And on October 10th, Target unveils their collab with British handbag line Mulberry
. There are bound to be takes on their newer styles like the Roxanne and the Alexa but I have my fingers crossed for a riff on the classic Bayswater.
While so much of what is on offer in Target's capsule collections looks tragically trendy, 'young' and too disposable on women past their twenties, there is real potential among this lineup for one-off pieces that may just look sophisticated enough for grownups.
l 'll be honest. It has taken me awhile to come around to leggings in their current incarnation in no small part because of the number of walking disasters I see on the street. But I'll concede that there are many reasons to wear leggings. Like the current look they add to the classic proportion of volume on top/skinny on the bottom. Let's add comfort, strategic shaping and seasonless looking knee and vein coverage to the plus column. But while I am loathe to lay down laws, there are rules of engagement for legging wearers of a certain age.
To my eye, leggings look great and ageless (worn by designers Vera Wang and Donna Karan both in their early 60's) as an under layer. Their looks work for two reasons: First, the volume on the top looks sleek, not sloppy. Vera Wang wears a shift dress that skims her body and her leggings meet the top of her sandals for a kind of chic art gallerist look. Donna Karan, the godmother of easy jersey combinations, wears grecian draping to define her curves. Her cropped leggings offer ideal knee-o-flage. And Second, both looks balance black leggings in tonal combinations for an unbroken line from head to toe.
Hem lengths remain annoyingly short and sales people will tell you that leggings are the solution under any too short dress. Wrong. Shift, shirt and tunic dress shapes work. Flouncy anything does not. High contrast combinations will break your body up into blocks of color which is never a sound visual strategy for looking longer, leaner and youthful. Be a leggings purist and wear black only if your goal is sophistication. Wear them with monochromatic top layers or in tonal combinations like Vera and Donna. Prints and patterns should incorporate plenty of black in the design to unify top and bottom.
Leggings worn in lieu of pants set off my mutton alarm. It's crucial to get the combined proportions just right. A bottom clearing jacket like a boyfriend looks right worn over a top of a similar length in jersey or a knit. A layer with shape and drape under your jacket is key to avoid looking blocky.
The tunic (left) above looks sleek and clears (just) anything that needs to be covered. The same line in a mid-thigh to knee length tunic dress is the right idea. The rock chick intimations of the look on the right are for girls in their twenties. It doesn't matter how in shape you are, dressing to look 10 or 20 years younger (especially in leggings) makes you look older, fact.
What about shoes? Ballet flats always work. And flat or chunky wedge heeled sandals provide the right balance for a covered leg in the summer. When the temperatures drop bring on the booties and tall boots. Avoid the I Love the Eighties
look of leggings and pumps. The Spanx
leggings below are convertible so they can be worn at ankle length or pulled over the top of the foot as a sock compromise.
Simply Vera Vera Wang
at Kohl's carries cotton and lycra cropped and full length leggings for $20. Danskin
has a range of cropped and ankle length styles in supplex that run from $25.00 to $35.00 and are available in regular and plus sizes. The next price jump is from $65 to $75 for lines like Splendid
and James Perse
made of a blend of cotton, lycra and modal for softness in regular sizes and Caslon
in plus sizes. They are all available online at Nordstrom
. Long inseams should try Long Tall Sally
for the Alba leggings at $49. Donna Karan
Collection leggings are priced at a stratospheric $495 for the kind of luxe lycra jersey used for her ready-to-wear.